Obama’s unilateral change of immigration law

If you want an example of why conservatives don’t believe President Obama’s overtures about working with them, and why he actually is making partisanship worse in this country while he claims to want the opposite, look no further than his administration’s new policy toward “low priority” illegal immigrants.

The policy, first reported by the Washington Times and subsequently confirmed in a publicly released memo from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, lays out the criteria for prosecutors to exercise discretion about whether to deport an illegal immigrant. The person in question must:

  • have entered the country before turning 16;
  • have been in the country for at least five years and still be here;
  • be in school (the memo doesn’t specify k-12 or college), or be a high school graduate, or have a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the armed services;
  • have not been convicted of “a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses” or pose “a threat to national security or public safety”;
  • be 30 years old or younger.

Individuals who meet these criteria almost certainly will not be deported. They will not immediately be granted any “substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship” because, in a rare moment of modesty, Napolitano acknowledges the administration can’t go that far in changing the law. But nor can we rule out such a development in the future.

What the administration has done here is short-circuit the legislative process and make a mockery of the idea that he wants to reach compromises with those who think differently about immigration policy.

You may recall that Congress had a heated debate about the DREAM Act, which would have granted a path to citizenship to almost the exact same pool of illegal immigrants. Now, there’s no question the path to citizenship element is a big difference between the two. But nor can anyone deny that Congress, as is its prerogative, has been debating how to change the legal approach to people who were brought to the United States as children — immigrants who arguably did not make the decision to come here illegally and might well be foreigners in their own birth countries if they’ve spent most of their lives here.

There is some sympathy among many conservatives for these child immigrants. But there is also debate about how to make such a policy change without creating an incentive for more illegal immigration. In fact, that is the biggest problem many conservatives — including yours truly — have with making such a policy change. That’s why you hear us talking about making the border more secure first, so that any kind of leniency for illegal immigrants already here does not lead to large number of new illegal immigrants.

With this decision, the Obama administration is dismissing those legitimate concerns. It is antagonizing its critics, who might have helped foster a compromise. And it is undercutting the very notion of a compromise, by taking what it wants without addressing what the other side wants.

Imagine if the president could unilaterally decree higher taxes, and then told conservatives, “OK, now I’ll be happy to talk about spending.” He would have no credibility, because he would already have gotten what he wanted without having to give in on anything.

That’s what’s happened here.

Then there are the details about the policy. Someone who came from Mexico to the U.S. a month before his 16th birthday and is now 21 cannot in any sense be described as someone who knows “only this country as home,” as Napolitano’s memo puts it. These kinds of thresholds for deciding when the law of the land should be ignored are more properly debated in Congress than decreed by an administration. Yes, the memo only grants discretion and doesn’t require it, but it also makes clear a strong preference for ignoring these “low priority cases.”

And let’s not pretend this policy is totally unrelated to this fall’s election. It’s not only brazen pandering to a group whose votes Obama needs desperately, but it is made at the same time his administration is fighting voter ID laws that would prevent, or at least sharply curb, any voting by illegal immigrants. (Apparently, the White House thinks you need to show an ID to listen to your president speak, but not to vote for him.)

Have other presidents single-handedly set policies their political opponents didn’t like? Of course. But most of them didn’t have the chutzpah to continue claiming, three and a half years into a very partisan presidency, that they really, really, really wanted to work with the other side of the aisle.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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288 comments Add your comment

td

June 15th, 2012
11:58 am

Kyle,

Have you seen any polls on the age ranges in the Hispanic community that support Obama? I smell a big rat with this one.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

June 15th, 2012
12:02 pm

Obozo could have done this three years ago but waited until a few months before the election?

Feeling used yet, amigos?

Aquagirl

June 15th, 2012
12:04 pm

you may recall that Congress had a heated debate about the DREAM Act

C’mon, Kyle. Congress hasn’t done a thing about illegal immigration in years, they’re mired in their own idiocy and fear of the word compromise. The real world can’t wait forever.

Mr. Holmes

June 15th, 2012
12:05 pm

I know it just kills when doing the right thing also happens to be good politics. Alas, such is the case here. Cry me a river, Kyle.

ragnar danneskjold

June 15th, 2012
12:08 pm

I am a conservative who believes Congress is incompetent to set quotas for immigration. (Actually Congress is incompetent for almost every element of economic management, and immigration is merely one of those.) There are several law-related areas ancillary to immigration well within the purview of Congressional remedy, but our vacuous leader has stumbled into a rational solution to the irrational legislative problem.

the cat

June 15th, 2012
12:09 pm

Well done Mr. President. Obama 2012

GT

June 15th, 2012
12:12 pm

You sure you want to use the word pandering? Romney has a base most of us and them believe he is physically opposed to, yet he entertains to get their money and their vote. Now that he passes the speed bumps of the primary he, Romney, now is ,as you say, pandering to the Latino voter.

I would say Obama is representing his natural constituency. These people voted for him in the last election and now will vote for him in this one. Why should he cross an aisle to compromise with a group of people on a subject that they are out of touch with the rest of America on. Why does all the compromise have to come from O, these people can’t think of a compromise themselves?

td

June 15th, 2012
12:15 pm

Aquagirl

June 15th, 2012
12:04 pm

“The real world can’t wait forever.”

So your answer is that one person can unilaterally can change the law of the nation without the votes of the Congress. Sounds a little like you are supporting a dictatorship to me. I think I will remember this when Romney is President and we ask him to unilaterally outlaw abortion (in the name of protecting human life) due to the precedents Obama has established.

td

June 15th, 2012
12:17 pm

GT

June 15th, 2012
12:12 pm

“I would say Obama is representing his natural constituency. These people voted for him in the last election and now will vote for him in this one.”

Yes we know illegals voted for Obama in the last election and with the actions of Holder will be able to go to the polls and vote for him again this year.

iggy

June 15th, 2012
12:17 pm

” I would say Obama is representing his natural constituency”

Yes he certainly is. That constituency being, for the most part, scofflaws, excuse makers, pilferers and last but certainly not least the “lowest common denominator.”

Darwin

June 15th, 2012
12:18 pm

So, it’s once again hooray for a do nothing Congress?

BuckeyeinGa

June 15th, 2012
12:18 pm

This will definitely help in states like Az and Co. smart move

Aquagirl

June 15th, 2012
12:19 pm

So your answer is that one person can unilaterally can change the law of the nation without the votes of the Congress

Nobody’s changed the law. But please continue with your drama queen meltdown, a lot of folks seem to be enjoying their hysteria.

Manchurian-Kenyan Candidate

June 15th, 2012
12:19 pm

There’s a very simple reason why Obama came up with this

…..now he won’t be forced to deport himself!!!

td

June 15th, 2012
12:20 pm

Mr. Holmes

June 15th, 2012
12:05 pm

“I know it just kills when doing the right thing”

Explain to us all how allowing people to cross the border illegally be rewarded for their actions while there are millions of others in the world that have done everything the right way and are waiting to come here legally is the “right thing” to do?

Rick in Grayson

June 15th, 2012
12:21 pm

TD, you are correct that Obama is now setting precedents that increase the power of the Presidency in ways that would sadden our founding fathers and wreck havoc with the checks and balances they established for our Republic.

Manchurian-Kenyan Candidate

June 15th, 2012
12:21 pm

just having fun…..seriously, sounds like an act of desperation to me. He will lose some independant and black votes on this one.

But I’m sure Axelrod had Ayers, Rev Wright, and “Native American” Sen. Warren do the math before he announced this…

Mr. Holmes

June 15th, 2012
12:22 pm

And the president, of course, is changing no law unilaterally. He is merely establishing enforcement priorities of existing laws, which is entirely within his prerogative. The immigrants covered under this action still have no path to citizenship and can be summarily deported if & when the GOP next elects a president.

Romney’s response to this will be quite telling. I’d be willing to bet a large sum that it focuses near-exclusively on the “dictatorial” manner in which it was done and says nothing or next to nothing about the practical effect.

getalife

June 15th, 2012
12:22 pm

It was rubio’s idea so willard will have to agree.

td

June 15th, 2012
12:23 pm

Aquagirl

June 15th, 2012
12:19 pm

“Nobody’s changed the law. But please continue with your drama queen meltdown, a lot of folks seem to be enjoying their hysteria.”

Please show us all in the US code section where the following is the law:

have entered the country before turning 16;
have been in the country for at least five years and still be here;
be in school (the memo doesn’t specify k-12 or college), or be a high school graduate, or have a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the armed services;
have not been convicted of “a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses” or pose “a threat to national security or public safety”;
be 30 years old or younger.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

June 15th, 2012
12:23 pm

Imagine if the president could unilaterally decree higher taxes, and then told conservatives, “OK, now I’ll be happy to talk about spending.”

Hey, can we do that too???

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

June 15th, 2012
12:24 pm

I wish I were surprised at this unbridled attempt to usurp legislative powers, but the man has repeatedly said, that the Congress holds him back from the “progress” he can bring to America. It is not the first time he has increased the powers of his office, with no push back from the legislative branch, and will not be the last.

There are suits against him for violating the first amendment as pertains to religion. The congress should again sue him and let the Supremes sort this out. He does not have the authority to change US law at will.

He dreams, speaking of Wet-Dream Act, of having dictatorial powers, so when Hugo goes in Venezuela maybe he can step in down there, assuming we throw him out up here.

Manchurian-Kenyan Candidate

June 15th, 2012
12:26 pm

@Finn….”Hey, can we do that too???”

Sorry Finn, you can move to Venezuela if you like that approach. But that might not last much longer since Chavez if at the footsteps of purgatory…so you’d better move quick

Mr. Holmes

June 15th, 2012
12:27 pm

Explain to us all how allowing people to cross the border illegally be rewarded for their actions while there are millions of others in the world that have done everything the right way and are waiting to come here legally is the “right thing” to do?

It’s because for a significant portion of these people, they were brought here as children and subsequently built a life and can contribute to society just like anyone else. Deporting them would be destroying that life because of a decision made by their parents, not them. Kyle’s example of someone coming “a month shy of his 16th birthday” is typical right-wing “throw the baby out with the bathwater” approach of trying to invalidate any sort of social compassion based on perceived abuses by a relative few. There are hundreds of thousands of people who were brought here as small children and remained–and you know it just as well as i do.

If throwing them out is your idea of “right,” you’re welcome to it, sir. It is not mine.

catlady

June 15th, 2012
12:28 pm

I’d like to talk about how Reagan changed immigration policy by opening the floodgates. I’d also like to talk about Shrub’s “signing statements.” THEN, we will talk about this.

iggy

June 15th, 2012
12:31 pm

Just more excuses. These adult-children, who prompted all this whining, should be tossed out along with the entire family.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

June 15th, 2012
12:32 pm

Yes we know illegals voted for Obama in the last election

LOL, people who are scared to death of getting deported are going to risk standing in line to vote? In a room filled with hateful old white people with badges and authority?

60% of those who CAN vote don’t even bother but these folks who are banned from it are gonna risk it all out of their love for Obama?

Mwuahahahahahaha. Keep drinking the Hannity kool aid. You folks are really brainwashed.

Aquagirl

June 15th, 2012
12:33 pm

td, I’m sure you were straining for a point there but your question makes no sense. There is no law saying “have entered the country before turning 16.” There’s usually a SUBJECT in there. I’m sure there’s one in your mind but unfortunately it didn’t make it into your post.

Kyle’s last post was about prosecutorial discretion and oddly enough the resident cons here seemed in favor of the concept. Nobody thought our Republic would collapse as a result. I must complement some of y’all on such a quick 180 spin.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

June 15th, 2012
12:34 pm

What do we do with the remains of those who served in the military and died doing it? We deport that part too?

ByteMe

June 15th, 2012
12:34 pm

If you want an example of why conservatives don’t believe President Obama’s overtures about working with them, and why he actually is making partisanship worse in this country while he claims to want the opposite

So remind me again about what Republican policy is toward immigration and how they’re open to compromise…?

Takes two to tango. Obama has no one on the other side to work with, so he does what he can for our country without any help from the disloyal and unpatriotic opposition.

So Kyle did you complain publicly when the Bush administration failed to enforce the LAWS about bank deposit leveraging that the SEC chose not to enforce in 2004-2006? Did you claim they were ignoring or rewriting the law? Or is this just another example of your selective outrage?

ByteMe

June 15th, 2012
12:35 pm

Kyle’s last post was about prosecutorial discretion and oddly enough the resident cons here seemed in favor of the concept. Nobody thought our Republic would collapse as a result. I must complement some of y’all on such a quick 180 spin.

This.

The lack of self-awareness by those with ODS is not surprising.

commoncents

June 15th, 2012
12:36 pm

Once again, there goes Obama acting “stupidly”

Kyle Wingfield

June 15th, 2012
12:37 pm

Mr. Holmes @ 12:27: I’m not the one who set the bar at age 16. If the bar were set at, say, age 10 with five years residency, it would be a completely different discussion.

Which, again, is why the changes should be made legislatively. It’s messier, it’s slower, it’s more frustrating for a lot of people. But our system is not designed for neat, fast changes to the law.

Kyle Wingfield

June 15th, 2012
12:38 pm

Aquagirl @ 12:33: Actually, I expressly said the last post was not about prosecutorial discretion: “For a moment, let’s play lawmaker instead of lawyer or law enforcer. ”

Some people might have ignored that part of the post, but that’s not how I framed it.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

June 15th, 2012
12:41 pm

Three-plus years of 8-10% unemployment

$1.5 trillion deficits every year

$6 billion in new debt

Record numbers on the dole

$800 billion wasted on non-stimulus

And the private sector is doing just fine

Everything that came before this post is merely meant to distract Americans from the disaster that is the Obozo regime.

Eyes on the prize, Americans, and like-minded patriotic Democrats.

Mr. Holmes

June 15th, 2012
12:41 pm

Kyle: Do we consider 16-year-olds to be minors in this country, yes or no?

If you think there are marauding bands of quinceaneros crossing the river and risking their lives in massive numbers, you’re no more rational than most of the Righties who post on this board.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

June 15th, 2012
12:41 pm

Y’all just chill. We can modify the law after the election……

commoncents

June 15th, 2012
12:42 pm

Mr Holmes @ 12:27 – “It’s because for a significant portion of these people, they were brought here as children and subsequently built a life and can contribute to society just like anyone else. Deporting them would be destroying that life because of a decision made by their parents, not them. Kyle’s example of someone coming “a month shy of his 16th birthday” is typical right-wing “throw the baby out with the bathwater” approach of trying to invalidate any sort of social compassion based on perceived abuses by a relative few. There are hundreds of thousands of people who were brought here as small children and remained–and you know it just as well as i do.”

If that’s your arguement, wouldn’t you have rather supported a law (or a change in how a law is prescribed) that deals with just those who came here at a very young age and don’t know their actual home? Kyle’s example shows how Obama’s proposal is just a blanket statement meant to attract new voters, not actually correct the system.

You would think that a good president would at least have good proposals… Obama is just saying what he can to build support before the election, regardless if it’s actually a good idea

Kyle Wingfield

June 15th, 2012
12:42 pm

ByteMe @ 12:34: Here we go with the “disloyal and unpatriotic” rubbish. Obama and the Dems won’t give in, they’re being good little politicians; Republicans won’t give in, they’re the bad boys and girls…

Spare me.

As for your question: As you well know, I wasn’t writing about that topic back then and have no articles on the subject to show you. So I could say right now that I did complain about it privately at the time, and you wouldn’t believe me anyway. That’s why I don’t engage in these games about proving what I thought years ago.

I have the track record I have, and it gets longer and covers more topics every day.

Old Timer

June 15th, 2012
12:43 pm

It appears that Obama does not need an elected Congress. As of today, dictator style, he has made another one of his own rules, this time, regarding illegal aliens getting to stay to vote for him ala Bill Clinton style. Adding to his list of “my own Obama rules.” Next on his list is to bow to Putin again in a few weeks over Syria.
Why do we even need Wasshington?

Manchurian-Kenyan Candidate

June 15th, 2012
12:44 pm

Agree, Lil Barry

Instead of having to defend his economic achievements(pun intended), Barry is saying “Look! …a spider on the wall!”

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

June 15th, 2012
12:45 pm

That constituency being, for the most part, scofflaws, excuse makers, pilferers and last but certainly not least the “lowest common denominator.”

and eagle scouts, and christians, and deacons, and girl scouts, and social workers, and car salesmen, and analysts, and computer nerds, and CEO’s, and teachers, and perverts, and union members, and wall street traders. Pretty much the WHOLE gamut.

All except for that little sliver of idiots who watch Fox News.

Kyle Wingfield

June 15th, 2012
12:45 pm

Mr. Holmes: You’re missing the point. The point is that this kind of policy is justified in large part because children who are brought here by adults at a young age and are mostly raised here would be strangers in a strange land if they were taken back to their birthplaces. I get that. But the policy is overly broad when it also covers the kind of person I gave in my earlier example. Details matter.

commoncents

June 15th, 2012
12:45 pm

Kyle: Do we consider 16-year-olds to be minors in this country, yes or no?

Depends on what they are doing…

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

June 15th, 2012
12:47 pm

Byteme

Prosecutorial discretion is something to be used on an individual basis.

Laws should be changed, if there is a need to use discretion on thousands of cases. We pick and choose which laws to enforce and when, then we can not understand why respect for law and order is non existent.

There is a process that we go through to change laws, not publish a fiat.

It scares me to think how bold Barry is going to be after the election, when he has a little more room to operate, as he says. It is going to take years to restore the damage he has already done to the country, if he is reelected, we may not live long enough.

JDW

June 15th, 2012
12:48 pm

@Kyle…”Of course. But most of them didn’t have the chutzpah to continue claiming, three and a half years into a very partisan presidency, that they really, really, really wanted to work with the other side of the aisle.”

O’ HORSE HOOEY…it’s more like “after three and a half years of watching the other side try to do nothing but act as a barrier the President has chosen to use (at long last) the tools at his disposal”.

There are ramifications to being the PARTY OF NO. Now should the Republicans want to talk, well they know the address. Of course after Boehner’s last try my guess is he isn’t coming back until some of those Tea Partiers go home.

Mr. Holmes

June 15th, 2012
12:49 pm

And I love all the hand-wringing about not having taken this action “legislatively,” as if the folks in Congress have been soooo willing to work with this president on ANYTHING, much less something as politically charged as immigration. News flash: Sometimes governments have to actually govern, but the Right tends to forget this when the other side has the White House.

Obama spent 3+ years trying again and again to work with these people to actually move legislation forward. But no. The decision was that even a functioning government–regardless of its results–would be interpreted positively, and so the GOP has done everything in its power to bring things to a crashing halt.

The guy in the WaPost actually had a valid point the other day when he said that even if you disagree with every single one of Romney’s policies, his election might be better for the country because then the Republicans would not be tempted to drive us off a cliff. I truly believe the GOP would rather see national chaos and insurrection than an Obama second term.

Kyle Wingfield

June 15th, 2012
12:50 pm

JDW: If a party that doesn’t go along with what the other party wants is the PARTY OF NO, then I guess we have two PARTIES OF NO.

Old Timer

June 15th, 2012
12:51 pm

Kyle–true, but is is for congress to deciide, not Barry the one man show.

JDW

June 15th, 2012
12:51 pm

@Kyle…BTW where were you when Duhbya used signing statements 750+ times to in an attempt to nullify legal restrictions on his actions in legislation?